This is going to be a low-effort MM post. Or at least I intend for it to be a low-effort post. we’ll see how it turns out by the end.
After a long spell of not reading very much long-form literature, I’ve been making an effort to get back into it again. I’m aware I’ve said this before. The modern world (or maybe it’s just my life) has an constant strong undercurrent of attention drain. I find it easy to get into the habit of snacking on YouTube, short-form web content (drip-fed through social media), and TV shows. Less easy to break out of it again, and to get used to the idea of reading 50-60 pages of a novel at a time. (Let alone academic papers, or textbooks.) I’ve had a break from academic work for a year now. If I’m going to pick things up after the summer again and actually complete my MSc, I need to cultivate focus.
I joined Mastodon back in November or December, and although I’m happy that this federated Twitter alternative exists, I fear that “social media” in general is unsafe for my sense of calm and mental well-being. It was far too easy for me to follow a bunch of interesting people and get caught in the vortex of all the fascinating things they would write and link to, and find myself distracted, intimidated, and despairing of all the things that I “should” pay attention to and care about. Even at a low dosage it’s too much, so I’m stepping away again.
Also, I’d forgotten how much I enjoy novels once I get up to speed with them.
- ⭐️ Ned Beauman – Venomous Lumpsucker || I’ve heard this called “cli-fi“, a kind of (science) fiction that deals with themes of climate change and ecology. This is an intense near-future story squarely in that vein. It’s not explicitly a comedy, but it has some very funny parts.
- Mary Roach – Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law || Amusing essays.
- Ian Rankin – A Heart Full of Headstones || Latest episode of Rebus. It’s fine.
- Anthony Horowitz – Magpie Murders || When I picked this up in Waterstones in April, I had no idea that there was a TV adaptation being broadcast at the same time. I just bought it because I was looking for a non-police-based mystery novel, and the magpies appealed to me. It’s a twisty book-within-a-book double mystery thing. Quite good. I haven’t read any Anthony Horowitz before, but he’s on my “approved” list now.
- Lindsay Ellis – Axiom’s End || I think it was Alex and Fiona who pointed me in the direction of Lindsay Ellis’s video essays on YouTube, which are very good, and I was aware she’d written an SF book. I saw it in Waterstones and picked it up to give it a try. It’s a good, thoughtful first-contact / aliens-on-earth piece. A little clunky in the first hundred pages or so.
- ⭐️ Andy Weir – Project Hail Mary || Classic golden-age “the lone scientist as hero” story. Challenges and clever solutions. If you like that kind of thing, this is top-notch. It reminded me that I skipped his second novel, Artemis. I will pick it up soon.
- Mary Robinette Kowal – The Spare Man || Murder mystery set on a luxury space cruise. I’m not super fond of ultra-rich protagonists, and I found the rarefied milieu of the setting to be annoying.
- ⭐️ Ray Nayler – The Mountain in the Sea || More cli-fi, with a bit of a cyberpunk and AI edge. Very thoughtful; has a lot to say about consciousness and intelligence.
- ⭐️ Lindsay Ellis – The Truth of the Divine || After Alex mentioned that Ellis herself had called these books “Transformers fan fiction”, I couldn’t un-see it. Yeah. OK. It really is. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The writing is stronger in this second book, and it widens the scope of the alien contact, with the promise of even more and bigger things to come.
- ⭐️ Lucy Foley – The Hunting Party || Tight murder mystery thriller set in an isolated Scottish lodge. The narratives before and after the crime weave back and forth so that you don’t even find out who the victim was until the end of the book. Very good.
- 💩 Morbius || You only watch this for a joke, or a dare.
- ⭐️ Enola Holmes
- ⭐️ Enola Holmes 2
- ⭐️ Top Gun: Maverick || Okay, so militaristic imperialism. And incredibly cliché-ridden. But Cruise knows and co-producers are extremely skilled at keeping you on the edge of your seat.
- Black Adam || Meh.
- ⭐️ The Menu || Creepy; horrible people getting their comeuppance. Nails the aesthetic of fine dining idolatry and food worship.
- ⭐️ Bullet Train || Silly mad fun.
- Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania || Competent. Visually sumptuous, but lacking in emotional weight.
- Lightyear || Good.
- ⭐️ Strange Planet || The trailer for this was incredibly bland and left me completely uninterested. The film itself is really good! (Back in cli-fi again.)
- ⭐️ The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent || Bonkers and brilliant. Has a surprising amount of emotional weight; although maybe that’s just because I was watching it with Fiona, and there’s a bit of a daddy-daughter thing going on in the film.
- 💩 Luther: Fallen Sun || No. Badly constructed. Takes the character waaay beyond the boundaries of plausibility that the TV show had established. And even if this was a generic action/spy thriller the final confrontation has just too much wrong with it.
- See How They Run || Cute little period murder mystery. Enjoyable performances from all concerned, but otherwise forgettable. I watched it just a couple of months ago, and I already don’t remember whodunnit.
- Twilight, Twilight: New Moon, Twilight: Eclipse, Twilight: Breaking Dawn part 1, Twilight Breaking Dawn part 2 || Watched all of these with Fiona in Dundee. I’ll take these as a single chunk. First of all, Bella Swan is objectively the worst. Secondly, I’m neither team Edward nor team Jacob; I’m team Dads. The three main dads in the films (Charlie, Carlisle, and Billy) are just incredibly wholesome. They need their own spin-off sit-com.
- The Empty Man || After the first sequence in the Himalayas I was seriously wondering if I’d be able to watch the rest of it, because it hit all my particular buttons labelled “unsettling existential dread.” But the rest of the film turned out to be far less disturbing. “Just” a cult/ghost/what is real horror movie.
- ⭐️ Escape From New York, ⭐️ The Thing, ⭐️ Halloween, ⭐️ They Live, The Fog, Big Trouble in Little China, 💩 Escape from LA. || When Abi was away in Dundee with Fiona in March, Alex and I had a “CarpenterFest” at home. The Thing is still creepy as hell. I don’t think I’d ever seen The Fog before, or Escape from LA. The latter is just awful. How did its special effects manage to be worse than those of Escape from New York fifteen years earlier?
- Lupin III: The Mystery of Mamo || Weird.
- ⭐️ Shazam II: Fury of the Gods || Taste the rainbow, motherfuckers! Flawed, but fun.
- ⭐️ The Lost City || Watched this with Mum & Dad. Dad hated it. Mum & I both enjoyed it. It’s silly fun. But definitely fun.
- ⭐️ Sharper || Clever, dense, con movie. The first two thirds, you wonder how it’s going to go. Unfortunately the third act builds too strongly on top of them, and turns out quite predictable. Entertaining, though.
- ⭐️ Renfield || Watched this at the Odeon Luxe cinema in Dundee with Fiona. (£20+ per ticket! Expensive! But you do get awesome fully reclining seats.) Fun, bloody comedy gore. After Fiona and I had watched Nic Cage in The Unbearable Weight the previous month, it was enjoyable to watch him go over the top in the role of Dracula here.
- Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre || Bland, not thrilling, unfunny. Wasted opportunity.
- Guardians of the Galaxy vol 3 || Yes, it was Rocket’s story all along.
Episodic video (“TV”)
- ⭐️ Slow Horses season 2 || More good spy drama.
- 💩 The Rig, season 1 || Could have been something more than a Doctor Who story. Wasn’t. Amusing to see one of the first characters to be killed off reading John Wyndham’s The Kraken Wakes. Props to the set designer.
- ⭐️ Kaleidoscope || I’d seen the trailer for this and thought it looked interesting. The tease of being able to watch the first seven episodes in any order, and everyone being served a random sequence was a cute gimmick, but turned out not to be quite true. (I’m not the only person I know who got the order green yellow violet orange blue red pink white.) Pseudo-random, maybe. From a story-telling point of view, quite an achievement, though. When I saw Eric Garcia coming up in the credits as the series creator, I was even more interested. I’ve enjoyed a lot of his books and projects over the years.
- ⭐️ The Last of Us, season 1 || Yes. YES.
- ⭐️ For All Mankind, seasons 1 & 2 || Different than I’d expected, before I dived in. Slow-moving and thoughtful. Much less “rah-rah space!” than I’d imagined, and right from the very beginning it makes it very clear that it’s going to challenge the term “mankind” all the way to the moon and back. Beautifully produced.
- The Witcher: Blood Origin || Inoffensive, but forgettable.
- Star Trek Picard, season 3 || Makes the first two seasons seem rather pointless, if the whole thing was going to build up to this Next Gen reunion and final send-off. That said, I enjoyed seeing the Next Gen gang all back together again, and I would have watched more of that cast having adventures again thirty years later. But in-universe the characters were all scattered, and they needed a multitude of devices to bring them together again, and most of those devices were…bad. Overall: mixed.